ASUS P8P67 Deluxe Review
ASUS comes from the last four letters of the word Pegasus. A mythical winged horse they have chosen for their company name as it represents Strength, Creative Spirit and Purity. Flying Horse Experience is not something you will find in droves on Techreaction, but rigorous testing and evaluation of manufacturers PC related products is. Strength is definitely an attribute ASUS brings to the table, being the largest motherboard manufacturer in the world. Creative Spirit is epitomized both by being early to market with new exciting technologies as well as the Aesthetics they put into their product designs. Purity is exemplified by the total package experience. Products that go above and beyond what one expects, and a knowledgeable staff to help get you working or playing beyond your expectations.
The P8P67 Deluxe is a LGA1155 Socket motherboard supporting Crossfire and SLI in a x8/x8 configuration or a single GPU with up to 16 Lanes of PCIE 2.0 bandwidth at its disposal. 16+2 phase power supplies more than enough clean power to the CPU to max out the capabilities of the Sandy Bridge architecture, and 4 additional phases will handle the DRAM slots for pushing modern 2000+ MHz DDR3. The board features a UEFI BIOS, Bluetooth, Power over E-SATA, and an Intel Network IC. 2 integrated USB 3.0 ports with 2 more added through the included front panel expansion device, and 4 SATA 3 (6 Gbps) ports provided by the PCH and Marvell.
Digi+ Power Dual Processor enhancements allow the motherboard to both overclock and enhance low power capabilities of the architecture through use of the EPU and TPU processors. ASUS again institutes the Mem Ok! feature to enhance memory compatibility. Firewire is included on the IO panel, as well as up to 10 channel audio by mixing the 7.1 rear connections with concurrent 2 channel front panel audio.
LEDs abound with post indicators for Memory, CPU, Boot devices and RAM. Decorative LEDs, a 2 digit post code display and lighted on board power and reset buttons round out the illuminative fixtures.
In an effort not to put the cart before the horse, the full feature portion of the P8P67 Deluxe review will follow an introduction to the new Sandy Bridge CPUs and Cougar Point based motherboards.
Sandy Bridge in brief.
Sandy Bridge is the newest “tock” architecture from Intel. Based on the popular Westmere chips of 2010, the CPU has been redesigned with multiple new features. Ring bus topology has replaced QPI with bandwidth on up to 96GB/s, new 256 bit AVX instructions for improved FP operations, an improved GPU with turbo feature and 32nm design for lower power usage. The Sandy Bridge CPU is more efficient than previous generation CPUs. Sandy Bridge will also include a Video transcoder on die and a new cache for micro-ops.
Sandy Bridge uses an LGA1155 socket for mounting and is not compatible with the previous generation LGA1156, neither CPU or Motherboard. The heatsink mounting pattern however is 1156 compatible so a new HSF will not need to be purchased if upgrading from a P55 platform. While certain features remain the same, (IOH and ICH have been replaced with a singular PCH, like LGA1156) other improvements have been made. In lieu of using an MCM design of CPU and NB on silicon the LGA1155 is a true on die chip with IMC and GPU included as a single unit.
The GPU shares L3 cache with the CPU and will come in one of two styles, single or dual core (referred to as GT1 or GT2) which will have 6 or 12 Execution Units respectively. The 12 unit GPU is reported to be equal to or better than a 5450 Discrete GPU and slightly more than twice as powerful as the old LGA1156 GPUs. The GPUs will also feature Turbo mode, much like the CPUs do today. A special motherboard (dubbed H67, with H61 available at a future date) will be needed to use the integrated graphics core.
With the abolition of QPI and UnCore, the L3 Cache will now run at CPU speed. When CPU turbo is initiated L3 Cache speed will also increase. However CPU and GPU Turbos are mutually exclusive, only one item can use the Turbo feature at a time. The L3 Cache being tied to CPU means that when the GPU cores increase in speed the memory speed does not. This may not be an issue at all as the amount of memory is very small to begin with, on memory deprived discrete GPUs however, memory speed often has a very limiting effect on performance.
DMI 2.0 will provide x8 PCIE 2.0 lanes operating at 5GT/s (full speed PCIE 2.0). This doubles the bandwidth of the the LGA1156 DMI bus and is a much needed change as USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbs drives are becoming more common it will be easier to saturate the old standard. Providing 4GBs in one direction provides future scalability for multiple drives in RAID arrays, USB 3.0 Ready Boost devices and Gigabit Ethernet.
The Sandy Bridge platform will have minimal Bus Clock adjustment capability in an effort to reduce overclocking. However, to offset this, Intel has also lowered their prices on the “K series” CPUs, which are multiplier unlocked. Rumors put the “top” 2600K CPU at between $300 or $500 MSRP at launch. Unfortunately at this time even the unlocked multiplier CPUs have an upper limit. Theoretically 57x, in practice however this number is often much lower.
Sandy Bridge Motherboards
Not all “chipsets” are created equally. At launch manufacturers will be launching P67 and H67 motherboards. The main difference according to Intel specification is access to the integrated GPU via the Flexible Display Interface (FDI). H67 Also does not natively support dual 8/8 PCIE 2.0 slots, only a single 16 Lane slot. However Manufacturers will be free to make changes to these specifications based on 3rd party hardware as will be commented on in the following review.
H61 will be a low cost motherboard solution. Removed features will be RAID support, 2 less PCIE lanes for the DMI Bus, and 4 less USB 2.0 ports. None of the chipsets feature USB 3.0 support, so manufacturers will include them using chips from VIA or NEC (now called Renesas Electronics Corporation).
Another important note is that H67 and H61 at this time feature locked memory multipliers. The P67 does support unlocked memory multipliers. Combined with the poor BUS speed adjustments available on the Sandy Bridge platform this could result in a lack of high end memory sales for the H series chipsets.
As mentioned previously Intel has decided to limit overclocking on the Sandy Bridge platform. However if the $300 price tag on the 2600K is accurate, bringing unlocked multiplier goodness to the masses at a reasonable price, the limitation to manipulate the BUS speeds will effect those purchasing the lower tier CPUs more than anyone. The flexibility to control memory speeds will also be hindered without the ability to control the BCLK beyond a few points unless manufacturers offer great control over memory multipliers than what is present on current gen motherboards.
The limitation of the overclocking ability is tied to the fact that Intel has one clock generator for every bus on the CPU. Be it USB, SATA, PCIE or CPU. It remains to be seen if motherboard manufacturers will be able to implement a work around as they have done in the past with PCI/AGP locks or more recently with PCIE.
ASUS has been great with Intel BUS speeds in the past, root for their R&D team to figure out this dilemma.
ASUS P8P67 First Look
Package and Contents
The package is standard ASUS quality made of heavy corrugated cardboard and opens with the common tab in slot design. The exterior is adorned in full color graphics and details to let the user know what they are purchasing. There is also a flap that is held shut with Velcro buttons that allows a purchaser to view the motherboard through a clear plastic shield without needing to open the product and pull it out. A great option for retail establishments, more manufacturers should follow this precedent. Inside the box is a cardboard tray that holds the motherboard securely without the need for packaging foam or bubble wrap.
Removing the Motherboard tray, reveals a second storage compartment that holds the motherboards accessories in two separate areas. The divisor helps support the motherboard tray and prevents crushing. Here we can see what has become “standard” for ASUS, multiple SATA cables, an IO shield backed by an EMI reducing material, ASUS “Quick connect” adapters for Front panel devices, a hefty user manual, driver DVD and case badge. This motherboard also includes a Digi+ VRM BT GO! Manual for implementing the motherboards built in Bluetooth, to sync your smartphone up to the motherboard both for personal/business reasons as well as the ability to remotely clock your PC, take screenshots et cetera. An SLI bridge is included with the motherboard packaging as well although a crossfire bridge is not. A blue and silver ASUS case badge is included as well.
Not mentioned in the “standard fare” inclusions is something relatively new to the PC scene. Motherboards from the past generations have been including USB 3.0 “Super Speed” ports on the IO area, ASUS’s X58 Motherboard the Rampage III Formula reviewed here, is one such example. The IO area of a motherboard due to ATX standards (and its derivatives) is in the back of the PC case. Making connecting devices to it a chore for most users. ASUS has included a 3.5” External USB 3.0 2 port assembly with 19 pin connector to connect to the motherboard. Handsomely designed in a black aluminum chassis it should blend nicely with most black PC cases. Unlike the external unit ASUS includes on the AsRock Extreme6 X58 motherboard, this bay enclosure is full length and should function properly with most tool-less designed computer cases.
Packaging and accessories aside the proof is in the pudding. The motherboard itself is detailed next.
The motherboard features a black PCB, with Black, Blue, Light blue and some white highlights. Plastic protective coating ships on two of the heatsinks, the low profile PCH heatsink and the, for lack of a better description the op-amp heatsink in the the standard “chipset sink” location. We can easily see the 8 pin CPU power connector the 24 pin ATX connector, LGA1156 style levered socket retention mechanism, 3 PCIE 16x slots (electrical) and 4 DIMM slots using the new 1 sided clip mechanism.
The VRM heatsinks are a free form design that is reminiscent of waves, perhaps it is the light blue color that creates it or just the design. Anodized aluminum the width and surface area should be more than adequate to handle the cooling needs considering the number of phases and the low power requirements of the Sandy Bridge platform.
The smaller sink handles 4 VRMs and is mounted with a push pin design. Touching the sink reveals it is not firmly mounted at all despite the offset alignment of the mounting clips. However it is only responsible for 4 VRMS. Note: After remounting the smaller VRM heatsink, it appears to be more solidly attached, although still not as firmly as the larger sink. Whether this is due to settling of the thermal pad, or from shipping the package is unknown. Recommend reseating the heatsink if it appears to be too loosely mounted.
Around the smaller sink we see the 4 pin CPU fan header, as well as a small 3 pin header with no description on the board or in the manual. Like the R3F we reviewed last month, this is most likely for ASUS use.
Moving towards the corner we have the 8 pin CPU power socket, located close to the edge of the board, so mounting this setup in a case should not be a problem. While under the heatsink we can find the Digi+ VRM IC. This works in tandem with the DIP2 feature of the motherboard mentioned briefly above and discussed in further detail later in the review.
The larger VRM heatsink handles the remaining 12+2 phases of CPU power and is piped to the op-amp heatsink. The op-amp sink is approximately 3.5” x 2” large and touches the op-amp and FET for the amp on approximately 5% of its surface. Initial impression is that the sink will be used to provide additional cooling to the VRMs. A side benefit of the pipe and secondary sink that is mounted with screws and a spring clip design is the main VRM sink is very firmly mounted as opposed to the secondary VRM sink mounted only with spring clips. The 16+2 Phases of power are distributed as 16 phases for the CPU with 2 additional phases for the Memory controller (also on the CPU).
Removing the heatsink, the board is completely capped by Fujitsu – Nichicon capacitors, which should please many people. Also noticeable is the BT GO! labeling on the board here. This is an ASUS implemented onboard Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR transceiver. Looking very closely we can make out a small FET for controlling the Power over ESATA port on the IO area as well. The small green SMDs with Italic ‘P’ written on them are fuses for the external connectors. This is to protect the motherboard from externally connected devices.
The CPU Land Grid Array 1155 has the same appearance as the LGA1156. The area around the socket itself is fairly open and only the largest of heatsinks will have any problems with mounting. A Motherboard with as many features and phases of CPU power as the P8P67, ASUS did a good job keeping the socket area as open as possible for enthusiast level cooling devices. Fujitsu – Nichicon caps surround the socket and should be short enough to handle any 1156 capable heatsink.
At the top of the IO area we find a legacy PS/2 port for Keyboard or mouse, 8 USB 2.0 ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports, dual Ethernet, dual E-SATA, firewire, 6 analog and dual digital audio ports (Coax and TOSLink SP/DIF). The Blue plastic shroud over the red ESATA and USB ports is the Bluetooth transceiver. One of the E-SATA ports is green to differentiate it because it features Power over E-SATA. A one cable solution for running SATA hard drives and SSDs as an external solution. No AC adapter or USB power will need to be provided.
The first Ethernet port (looking left to right) is gigabit speed powered by the Realtek RTL8111E which all other current P67 motherboard manufacturers are using. Currently only ASUS is also using the Intel NIC 82579V. Unfortunately no further information was able to be found on this IC as yet, but as the sticker on the IO area says, it is Intel Gbit LAN. Further information will be available after Intel releases confidentiality on the IC, at present the reviewer is awaiting acceptance into Intel’s Privileged embedded forums to find out more information. Information will be added as it is learned and as it is allowed by Intel.
Trailing down the back of the board we find a number of ICs that power the integrated peripherals. The first being NEC D7202000F1 USB 3.0 controller. This is an update of the original NEC controller and supports XHCI and uses nearly 1/5th power in idle situations. The next important IC we have is the Intel NIC, mentioned above. Realtek RTL8111E provides the other Gigabit port, running off a single lane PCIE 1.1. Firewire is also included via the IO area and an additional external PCI bracket that was not included in this sample, from the VIA VT6315N which is the same IC used on previous ASUS boards to supply 2 Firewire ports. The last IC of note on the back edge of the board is the audio controller, a Realtek ALC889. The ALC889 supports up to channel audio, 7.1 from the rear analog or digital ports and another 2 channels through the front panel header.
ASUS has also included Digital Theater Surround Sensation UltraPC licensing. This capability allows the decoder to transform stereo audio input into 5.1 surround sound. However it can also emulate surround through 2 channel speakers or headphone. DTS audio is a great inclusion for an onboard audio device.
The P8P67 Deluxe carries 3 PCI-E 2.0 x16 electrical expansion slots, 2 x1 PCI-e Expansions slots and 2 PCI expansion slots. Due to the nature of the Sandy Bridge Chipset the first two PEG slots will either run at 16/0 or 8/8 lanes respectively. The third PEG slot runs with only 4 lanes and is suited well for RAID cards or other expansion devices that require more than 500 MB/s bandwidth. The PLX PEX8608 chip located just below the first PEG slot is an 8 Lane PCIE 2.0 spec switch that can handle up to 8 ports for the integrated high speed IO devices like USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gbps.
The PCI slots are provided by the AsMedia chip ASM1083, while the dual PEG slots are broken down by the AsMedia ASM1440s located just north of the first PEG slot. While the board supports Crossfire and SLI multi-GPU setups, ASUS has included a 3-slot SLI bridge with the motherboard instead of a Crossfire bridge. AsMedia Technology is an ASUS subsidiary and is taking large strides in the chip building field.
Near the top PCIE x1 slot we also find another 4 pin Fan header, this one labeled Chassis Fan 1.
Along the bottom edge of the board we find the Front Panel audio header, with BIOS options this can be selected to either output AC’ 97 or HD audio format. Directly above the FP Audio port is a 3 pin SPDIF out header. This can be used to output digital audio to an older nVidia card, or to add digital audio output via an optional PCI expansion port device.
Next to it we have a Firewire expansion port for adding a second 1394a port to you PC. Again it requires an expansion port device that is not included with the packaging. This is unusual for ASUS, but for long time PC builders this will not be a problem as they should still have a dozen sitting in a desk or closet from the last 12 builds they have done. There is also a small SMD mounted fuse for the internal header just as there are for the rear IO ports on the motherboard.
Here we have our first selectable option. The EPU switch is for enabling the Energy Processor Unit which helps conserve power by enabling and disabling phases as needed resulting in higher efficiency. All Sandy Bridge motherboards have this feature, (SVID) but ASUS has offloaded the process and made some amazing improvements to it as we will discuss in the DIP2 features section.
Onboard power and reset switches are handy for those that run a setup without a case. Two USB 2.0 headers are located here for case expansion, or internally mounted USB devices. Two 3-pin fan headers are also located along the bottom edge of the board for power #2 and chassis #2. The 80-Post code debugger LEDs are located here as well. A break down of POST code errors can be found in the manual on page 2-20 under “Q-Codes.” More fuses can also be seen to the north of the USB headers. ASUS has gone out of their way to protect your investment.
Lastly we find the Front panel connection header. A Case can connect its power and reset switches, Power and IDE LEDs and speaker directly to this header. For ease of use however the ASUS Q-Connector is a great addition. For open air benchers it will not be needed, thanks to the onboard switches and LEDs, however for the user that runs a Case, this setup is excellent.
North of the Front Panel header we see the TurboV Processing Unit (TPU) which is essentially an overclocker in a box (or more accurately on board). This IC handles performance aspects of the Sandy Bridge Architecture as well as some ASUS only innovations like Mem Ok! IT can be controlled via software through windows, or via BIOS options. With a flick of a switch you can increase productivity from an already powerful system.
Next to the TPU IC we have a large chip known as an LPCIO. This chip is a Nuvoton NCT6776F Handles monitoring power supply voltages, fan speeds, and temperatures. It also handles legacy IO such as Floppy Disk, Serial and Parallel Port connections. It’s purpose on the P8 however is environmental monitoring and port 80 diagnostic messages. (Sent to the Post Code LEDs located at the bottom of the board).
Eight SATA ports are included on the motherboard. The first four light blue ports are SATA2 the White/light grey ports are SATA3 and all 6 are powered off the Intel PCH. The remaining 2 blue ports are also SATA3 but run off the Marvell 9128 controller.
Located just north of the PCH heatsink is the Second NEC (Renesas) USB3 controller for the front panel USB3 device. Towards the forward edge is the light blue 19 pin USB3 header (closely located are two more SMD fuses). This NEC chip supports XHCI, which most importantly plays a key role in virtualization options in the future. XHCI is a Intel backed specification that is attributed to USB2.0 and above. If the documentation is understood correctly, USB devices that only work in Legacy OSes, the legacy OS would be able to be run in a VM, and the USB connected and used as if the host operating system was that legacy OS. For a full white paper on XHCI please click here.
Macronix America supplies the onboard flash based tech for BIOS and EFI BIOS. The 8 pin socket chip located directly north of the Marvell SATA port is the EFI BIOS which is has 32Mb of storage. Directly west of that is a 512Kb flash storage also made by Macronix.
At the heart of the all of this is the PCH. Gone is the ICHxx terminology of old. There is no ICH11 or ICH11R. The functions of the ICH are now included in the PCH. Intel Storage technology drivers have been updated for the Cougar Point PCH, the H2 release of Sandy Bridge-E platforms will also include the Intel PCH in lieu of separate IOH and ICH.
The PCH is supplied by 8 PCIE 2.0 lanes off of the CPU via the Direct Media Interface 2.0 BUS. This provides twice the bandwidth of the Ibex Peak (P55) PCH.
Proceeding up the leading edge of the board, we come to the light blue colored 24 pin EATX power socket, standard fare of the last few years. Directly north of this we have the “Mem Ok!” button. This button tells the motherboard to search for suitable memory profiles, either manual entered or automatically generated, for memory that is not on the QVL. In all honestly, ASUS has always been great in supporting “unsupported” memory, simply by installing one stick in the DIMM furthest from the CPU and booting. Issues with non-bootable memory over the last few years on ASUS products have never occurred for this user, so a feature like this almost seems like a waste of research since the research has made it a non-issue. However, any user that has had issues with incompatible memory despite the capabilities of the ASUS motherboards, will also understand the benefits of a feature like this and herald ASUS for developing this. Right next to the Mem Ok! button is the post DRAM LED.
Next we have the TPU switch, and another 3 pin fan header this one labeled for Power Fan #1. TPU will be discussed further in the DIP2 portion of the review, the switch for TPU is a physical means of enabling or disabling the ability to automatically overclock the system.
Lastly we arrive at the DIMM slots. Four slots are present with light blue and dark grey tones. Like the preceding generation the slot furthest from the CPU socket is the first DIMM slot however the labeling on the board is misleading as it calls that slot DIMM B2. In actuality the Light Blue slots are the primary memory slots for running two sticks in dual channel.
Asus again uses the single lock retention mechanism it used on the Rampage III Formula review sample we received. However the loose DIMM feel is no longer present. Creative spirit indeed, this one follows through with slots as sturdy as those of a double clip nature. The idea behind the design is excellent, removing the second clip reduces issues with hitting long graphics cards in the first PEG slot.
We also can see 4 phase VDIMM power being supplied. Based purely on paper the Sandy Bridge platform should be able to handle 4 DIMMs at 2000+ MHz speeds and 4 phase power ensures that all 4 sticks will get enough clean power to do so. An excellent choice considering so many users today are running 8 or even 16 GB of RAM. It should be noted that this board will support up to 8GB sticks for a whopping 32GB of total memory!
Of the features mentioned previously some of them require more edification and as such we expand a bit on the features that make the P8P67 Deluxe a complete simple to use solution for maximizing potential.
ASUS Dual Intelligent Processor technology is integrated into the motherboard with the goal of providing Power Efficiency, Performance, Compatibility and Usability in a simple format to maximize the capabilities of your system. By using independent processors the systems performance and power can be controlled without using the resources of the CPU. Because the processors are independent of the CPU and RAM, even in a crash state the systems voltage and speed can be controlled enough to bring everything back to stability.
While either of these solutions are completely capable of handling everything by them selves, one can use the BIOS or Software from within windows, or your Smart phone to tweak settings even further.
TurboV Processing Unit
TPU provides the performance and compatibility enhancements. Utilizing Mem Ok! to allow the system to search and find bootable settings for your memory via speed, timings and voltage controls. Simple press and hold the Mem Ok! button and sit back and wait. Eventually your system will post and you can save settings that are bootable as well as make any changes you desire for performance increases.
TPU works in conjunction with software in windows to make adjustments as the user requires, however to make things even simpler ASUS has included auto OC capabilities. With the system powered down, simply flip the TPU switch onboard and power the system up. TPU will overclock the system based on thermal limitations.
Software will work in union with the TPU chip as well. Precision Tweaker 2 and TurboV EVO can be installed with AI Suite II to give you hardware level control over the system from within the Windows Operating environment.
Energy Processing Unit
As impressive as the TPU chip is, more impressive is the EPU. In conjunction with Digi+ VRM it enabled control of individual phases of CPU and RAM power. Providing a more balanced and efficient energy source. Power control to the CPU, chipset and Memory is just the beginning for the EPU however. Power conservation can be utilized in all manner of areas in a PC.
The EPU monitors the CPU directly in order to determine power requirements, increasing or decreasing voltage as needed to keep the CPU running smoothly. It also will dynamically adjust the voltage and frequency of your integrated GPU, or discrete GPU via ASUS Smart Doctor II.
The EPU can also control the stand by states of speakers, monitors, fans and even HDDs. This process is completely independent of manufacturers own power state settings such as EIST on Intel and Cool n Quiet on AMD platforms.
Like the TPU, the EPU can be controlled through software in windows or via BIOS options. It can also be enabled by means of a switch located on the motherboard with no further interaction necessary by the user.
Digi+ features fully digital voltage regulation that is controlled by a microprocessor. The fully digital design allows for optimal control by the user. Software can be installed to make use of every feature Digi+ offers however it is unnecessary as the EPU can handle power control duties all on it own with no interaction by the user required.
Spread Spectrum enables power switching frequency to be dynamically controlled, resulting in real time optimization of the power system. This controls heat and radiation emissions to keep them as low as possible when not needed or increase the threshold when more power is called for.
The very fast phase switch provided by Digi+ allows the VRMs to run under lower power conditions without fear of data corruption or system instability due to insufficient power, because when power is required the phase can switch back on faster than traditional phase VRM designs.
Cooler running VRMs is also a feature of the Digi+ VRM architecture. Traditionally despite running in parallel design the phases closest to the top of the motherboard run hottest. Heat is wasted energy and the Digi+ environmental controls will control the phase loading of the system to maintain an even temperature across the phases. This results in cleaner power, greater efficiency and less energy wasted as heat.
The assembled system is constructed of the following parts.
- P8P67 Deluxe Motherboard
- Kingston HyperX 2133 MHz c9 4GB DDR3
- nVidia 580GTX
- Prolimatech Megahalem 1156 CPU cooler with High Speed Yate Loon
- Corsair TX750W Power Supply
- 7200RPM Hitachi 500GB HDD
- 1TB 5400RPM Western Digital Green Power HDD
- 2x40GB Corsair Force Series 40GB SSD in RAID0
- Custom Bench Station
Stock and overclock testing was performed on ambient air (65F) with extreme clocking done on chill air (35F). Overclocks are not an example of expected performance for end user. CPU binning plays a major part on Sandy Bridge Architecture and no performance expectations are implied. Overclocking can cause premature hardware failure and running anything out of spec is at the sole responsibility of the end user.
Assembly was straight forward, large air cooling heatsinks may have some issue with clearance over the ram. The prolimatech fan clips were modified during the R3F review to provide clearance for the high profile ram being used in that review. The standard height RAM provided by Kingston proved the mod was unnecessary, the clearance of the sink is also high enough that 4 sticks could be installed although the 4th stick would actually be under the fan.
The first thing the user sees on powering up the system for the first time is the new UEFI splash screen. UEFI standards for “Unified Extensible Firmware Interface,” and should be noted that this is not a BIOS replacement. While many call it a point and click BIOS, UEFI is actually more akin to a mini operating system positioned between the user and the BIOS (Basic Input Output System). Both BIOS and UEFI are Firmware, which is software with direct Hardware control. Although it is geared towards being more user friendly, new tech always has a learning gradient, those familiar with traditional BIOS may have mixed reactions to it.
The layout is similar to that of a traditional BIOS. One can navigate UEFI just as they would a traditional BIOS, although at first appearance it might not seem to be the case. Arrow keys allow you to navigate pages with left and right, up and down moves up and down the list of features on each page. Navigating away from a subpage is done just like a traditional BIOS using the ESC key to move back. A mouse can also be used for navigation with a simple point and click GUI, however a keyboard is still required for entering any numeric values. Probably the best feature of the UEFI is the ability to enter any numeric value and not have to deal with scrolling up and down through a list of voltages.
Just as the new interface will have people that love or hate it, one of the great current features of the UEFI is the adaptability of it, it can also be a detriment. Subpages in any category will be returned to when you leave the page and come back. For example, if the user wants to tweak their memory sub-timings, but do not have a photographic memory or a note sheet of the SPD timings of the memory sticks the user can take the following steps.
Click Ai Tweaker and select sub page DRAM timing control. Click tool and select ASUS SPD Information. Now to swap back and forth between the pages one can just click AI tweaker or the Tool tab and they will be brought right back to the subpage they were navigating. To take it a step further, it not only remembers the subpage you were last on, it also remembers the setting you were changing. No need to scroll all the way back down to the bottom of a page, when you click the main tab you are brought right back to the last click you made on the page.
On the negative side, the UEFI BIOS remembers everything! Many times it takes a couple of restarts if you change a setting from Manual to Auto, other times it will require adding your saved profile, restarting and then adding it again to get the settings to stick. Installing the PCProbe II software also adds more EPU confusion to the mix as disabling EPU in the BIOS does not actually disable it, it simply runs with no BIOS control. The PCProbeII if installed runs automatically at windows start and takes control of the EPU features. By default it does not run in high performance mode, so selecting this will be necessary to get 100% CPU speed. Another side effect of EPU software, it overrides the turbo function, with max savings set in EPU the clock speed never changed from 16X CPU multiplier, despite having 40X multi set as default.
Another great feature of the UEFI is the ability to recognize USB devices after you powered up the system. While this worked great for USB storage devices it did not work as well for a USB desktop suite. Using a Microsoft Bluetooth Wireless Entertainment desktop 8000 I was unable to enter the BIOS. Attaching a $1 yard sale PS/2 keyboard however ensures getting into the BIOS. While most legacy ports are disappearing (no IDE or Floppy on the P8P67) PS/2 will probably be one of the last.
Future BIOS updates will allow the use of print screen functionality, so users and especially reviewers, will be able to take nice clean images from the BIOS instead of relying on haphazard camera skills. What other benefits lie in wait in the future, only time will tell.
The first look at the new BIOS is in EZ Mode, this lets you look at Current Voltages and temperatures as well as fan speed. The only user configurable options are System Performance and Boot Priority. Performance is simple as pushing one of three buttons, Power Saving, Normal or ASUS Optimal. The Boot Priority settings only list the USB drive (in regular or UEFI mode), the First Optical drive and the First Hard disk drive. If you have multi drives installed in your system you will need to enter advanced mode to change the HDD/SSD order.
To Enter Advanced Mode simply click the EXIT/Advanced button at the top right hand corner of the screen.
The main page of the Advanced BIOS only has a few selectable features as well. It displays BIOS date and version, CPU information including current speed (which is always BCLK*stock multiplier no matter what you have set) and amount of memory installed and what speed it current runs at. There is the option to change BIOS Language, including English, French, German, Mandarin, Gan Chinese and Japanese. System Date and time and BIOS password for Administrator and User access. Administrator passwords are for entering setup only. User passwords are boot level passwords and need to be entered just to boot the system.
Overclockers will spend most of their time under the AI Tweaker page of the BIOS and some issues with the “memory” of the UEFI BIOS will come into play here. The UEFI BIOS loves to remember your last settings. This can show up if switching from manual to offset voltage for VCORE. A Double restart is sometimes necessary to get the UEFI to read properly.
Target CPU Turbo Mode speed and Target DRAM speed are listed at the top of the page. Selecting Manual mode under AI Overclock Tuner enables the ability to select Base Clock. For tuning your RAM a user can select XMP or manual tuning options. XMP profiles depends on the RAM installed in the System. XMP is selected by clicking Ai Overclock Tuner and choosing XMP. For the review Kingston DDR3- 2133 9-11-9-2N 1.65v RAM is being used that brings two XMP profiles with it. XMP #1 is full speed 2133MHz and XMP #2 lower the RAM to 1866MHz and tightens the TRCD to 9. The BIOS supports up to memory multiplier 2400MHz, however even though the Kingston RAM based on the specs should be PSC ICs 2400MHz was unable to be booted. The word on the street is that Sandy Bridge architecture needs more VDIMM than previous platforms, when overclocking. Look for the upcoming Kingston memory review when in-depth memory specific testing will be done.
CPU PLL Override is included on the 1253 BIOS, this theoretically allows for higher overclocks. In testing however it makes no difference on the P8P67 Deluxe with the sample 2500K. It does seem to play an important role on ASUS ROG designed overclocking motherboards like the MIVE reviewed by MiahAllen. As that board is geared towards overclocking for the extreme user.
EPU settings follow Memory Frequency, enabling it allows you to set the level of power savings you want to apply. Auto, Light, Medium or Max Power savings are the options. Disabling EPU in BIOS does not have any effect if you have the ASUS software installed in Windows. It will still make changes no matter what you set in BIOS.
OC Tuner has only one setting, OK or Cancel. This is the TPU Automatic Overclocking utility, which can also be triggered by powering up your board by flipping the TPU switch or enabling Auto Tuning in the TurboEVO software. There is no option for OC or Extreme OC as there is in the Software.
CPU Power Management page contains options for turbo and speed step management. The speed step option is simply enable or disable. Maximum non turbo multiplier can be set here as well as turbo related power management options. Maximum voltage for turbo mode can be set up to +1v. Amperage limits are separate settings for long and short duration power limitations up to 255A as well as a Duration time of up to 32 setting for Long Mode Turbo. Maximum Power Plane Amperage has a maximum setting of 1023Amps. (4 times the individual core settings).
In an attempt to create manual turbo related settings, stock CPU ratio was set to 20, with turbo ratio set to default 37. This however led to a system that would run 16 to 20 multipliers just fine with no turbo at all. Per core turbo settings also do not seem to have any effect. More study and testing will need to be done, as user defined turbo profiles capable of large jumps would allow more flexibility for 24/7 users.
Those OC’ers that like to disable EIST should note two things. Disabling EIST appears to disable manual multiplier clocking unlocked CPUs in the TurboEVO software. IT also disables all power control over the turbo modes. The Automatic overclocking utility can still make changes however so most likely it is a software bug. Second, unless one disables EPU, CPU-Z still reports a 1600MHz clock speed and a multi of 16-33. Setting EPU to high performance, restarting and then disabling it, should solve this problem. Alternatively for 24/7 use leaving EPU enabled is an excellent choice. Enabling maximum power saving mode in EPU software led to the CPU never leaving 16x multiplier, running SuperPi or wPrime.
Digi+ VRM handles all of the DrMOS controls. ASUS has moved to all Digital Power systems on their motherboards, something not all manufacturers have done on the high end, some preferring expensive Analog solutions instead. TiN’s review of the M4E vs UD7 shows how well ASUS can design a digital power system compared to an equivalent high end Analog solution. Almost no ripple at all on the Digi+ VRMs.
Load-Line Calibration has multi choices; Auto, Regular (0%), Medium (25%), High (50%), Ultra High (75%), and Extreme (100%). LLC when enabled prevents vdroop, which is an Intel VRM specification. Intel design Vdroop in to the VRM spec to lower voltage during fast current changes to prevent high voltage transient spikes. Power delivery is not 100% efficient and when a system goes from a low or no load situation to a high load one or vica versa, voltage can spike over Intel’s rated maximum safe range. Load Line Calibration prevents the drop in voltage under load situations, although it also raises you set voltage a small amount as well. On a well constructed motherboard with an excellent power delivery system the possibility of transient spikes is extremely remote. Testing has shown on previous generation high-end ASUS boards that whether or not LLC is enabled transient spikes simply do not happen on any appreciable level. (.01 volts in Bobnova’s research). Raising LLC to near 100% also raises the voltage setting as much as .1volts, so when looking for max stable voltage settings consider this increase as well. LLC is not needed for most users only overclockers will have need of it. High (50%) should be the setting used by 90% of overclockers with Ultra High being more than enough for the rest.
VRM Frequency is automatically controlled by the system however manual options are available. Settings from 300-500 are allowed. Manual setting the VRM Frequency disables the ability to use VRM Spread Spectrum that automatically controls the VRM frequency based on need. This feature not only will improve stability for 24/7 usage but also drastically reduces EMI radiation from the MOSFETs by over 50%.
Phase Control instructs the UEFI on how to handle control of the 16 CPU phases. The options are Standard (which lets the CPU decide), ASUS Optimized, Extreme (all phases active) or Manual. When selecting Manual phase control the options are based on response, in four steps from Regular to Ultra Fast. No other specifics are mentioned, the only coment in BIOS is that regualr has slower reaction time than ultra fast. If the user could not figure that out, they probably should be leaving everything on Auto anyway.
Duty Control is another option that allows the end user to select how ASUS handles the VRMs. T. Probe instructs the TPU chip to balance the Phases for best Thermal load, cooler parts run more efficiently. Extreme mode balances the current output. While Phases my run warmer they will be automatically adjust to maintain the best Amp output. Overclockers will want to use the Extreme Setting, although excellent 24/7 Overclocks may prefer to run T.Probe especially when Cases are being used. ASUS Warns that when running Extreme profile not to disable Thermal monitoring (a separate setting that will be discussed further in the BIOS).
CPU Current Capability is exactly what it sounds like. It adjust OCP from 100-140% in 10% increments. 140% is the first option that shows up in RED in the BIOS. (Items displayed in RED are warning that this can be a dangerous level). No noticeable difference on the 2500K between 130-140% at 5.2 GHz. Optimal setting will be as low as you can stably run at your desired OC level.
Voltages controls are standard Sandy Bridge design and there are settings that are new compared to previous platforms. VCORE and CPU PLL most overclockers are already familiar with. VCCSA controls the System Agent which is Intel’s new terminology for the on die Northbridge. The System agent handles PCI-E, DMI, Memory Controller and the FDI. Most importantly it handles the power management and reset functions of the CPU. VCCIO is the new terminology for VTT, typically VTT adjustments are required for memory overclocking. Overclocking via a multiplier can also be stabilized with VCCIO The average user may not need to touch these settings ever, and with limited BCLK capabilities most overclockers will not push VCCSA past 1.1 and VCCIO past 1.2 volts. 1.05/1.2 are the settings used for the 24/7 OC used in this review with a 104 BCLK and 2200+MHz RAM.
CPU PLL Voltage is a widely discussed voltage that seems to have no definite answers on the correct settings. A PLL (Phase Locked Loop) keeps all frequencies in sync with each other. Many people will say –.3 volts help increase stability with others saying +.3v help get your CPU to the next level. In this review any “noticeable” results were probably as much Placebo effect as anything else. Adjust this at your discretion.
PCH voltage is the chipset that replaces the need for independent IOH and ICH chips. A small increase in voltage is enough to keep the storage controllers happy when increasing BCLK. Some users have reported data corruption when OCing but a small bump to 1.1v on the PCH has kept this samples data solid even pushing past 104 BCLK and closing in on 5.3GHz.
The DDR REF voltages can be set from .395 up to .63 per channel. These settings are not voltages but are ratios based on the VDIMM you have set, 39.5% to 63% of the programmed value. Adjusting this can help stabilize Memory overclocking. While higher and lower values were not tested on this system manually setting 50% did seem to help overclocking stability over leaving the setting on AUTO.
Lastly CPU spread Spectrum should be disabled if endeavoring any overclocking. ASUS recommends disabling it for BCLK overclocking. Spread Spectrum is enabled to pass FCC EMI restrictions but in actuality will not actively reduce any EMI your PC is generating. Recommend disabling it for all users.
The Advanced Tab is another section of the BIOS that everyone will need to visit at least once. This page is just a list of sub-pages with no information of its own.
CPU configuration sub-page lists your CPU, current CPU speed (again based only on BCLK and stock multi), revision, stepping, cache, core count, Hyper-Threading, CPU ratio range and current CPU ratio (lists maximum Turbo ratio for stock CPU, 37 in the case of the 2500K). For options we can set the maximum non Turbo CPU ratio here as well as in the CPU sub-page of Ai Tweaker. 255 is the maximum numeric value capable of being entered, but the description states that the value will be limited to stock or factory setting. This is not the case however, and whatever ratio you intend to boot can be entered and based on other settings used successfully.
Intel Adaptive Thermal Monitor can be enabled or disabled. ASUS recommends against it, extreme overclockers will disable it anyway. Active processor cores is a hold over from the last architecture. Many 1st generation core i owners found dropping to 2 cores allowed them to OC much farther than the CPU would normally allow. Sandy Bridge however is based on a ring architecture, so disabling cores might actually hurt performance. A good example of this is running SuperPi with no Affinity. Scores are approximately .1 seconds faster in 1M testing at 5.2GHz. So test performance before disabling cores.
Limit CPUID Maximum should be left at disabled it is a relic of older Operating Systems that do not support Hyper-Threading Technology. Execute Disable Bit (XD) prevents some buffer overflow attacks by creating non-writeable pages in system cache. Extreme overclockers will disable this, 24/7 Overclockers can leave it enabled.
Intel Virtualization technology supports Hardware level addressing for Virtual Machines. Note that the Unlocked 2500K and 2600K do support Intel VT-x they do not support Intel VT-d. If you are not running Virtual Machines you can safely disable this feature.
Speed Step and Turbo Mode can be disabled on this page as well as the CPU Power Management sub-page from AI Tweaker. C-States can also be disabled here.
The System Agent Configuration option only refers to setting the Initial Graphics device between PCI or PCI Express. This feature may have more options on the H67 Chipset.
PCH Configuration also only has one setting. Enable or Disable High Precision Event Timer. This also refers to old operating systems that only support RTC. This can be left Enabled.
SATA Configuration relates to the 6 Intel P67 SATA Ports. Two gray ports that support SATA 6Gbps, and 4 light blue Ports that only support SATA 3Gbps operation. The SATA 6G ports are backwards compatible with SATA 3G and RAID arrays are supported across all 6 ports. AHCI mode is enabled by default and every drive has a BIOS option to enable Hot Swap-ability. After days of testing X58’s ICH10R trying to enable Hot Swap and port replication (Both of which are supported on the Marvel 9128 controller on this board) without success, testing the PCH67 for these features will be done in an upcoming review.
USB Configuration enables legacy support for USB 2.0 and 3.0 devices as well as containing an antiquated EHCI BIOS hand off setting for antiquated systems that do not support USB2.0 like Windows XP Vanilla. Onboard Devices Configuration. Most overclockers will disable all or most of these. 24/7 users will want to only disable features they do not have any intention of using. USB 3.0 ports are backwards compatible with USB2.0 devices, and may marginally increase performance of USB 2.0 based storage. Only disable this device if you want 2 less USB ports functioning on your IO panel.
VIA controller is Firewire, 99% of users can disable this. Marvell Storage controller, if you are not using the Dark Blue SATA ports, you can disable this to speed up boot time. JMB Storage is for the ESATA ports on the back panel. Realtek and Intel LAN Controllers can be enabled or disabled as well as PXE Boot options. If you wish to disable only one LAN controller note the Realtek Ethernet is the LAN port located north of the Intel controller. PXE booting is loading an OS image from over the network. 99.9999999% of users should leave those options disabled). Serial Port Configuration should be left Enabled if you intend to connect your Phone to the PC over Bluetooth.
APM Advanced Power Management can be entirely disabled based on user preference except for one setting. Gary of ASUS has posted that Enabling Power on By PCIE should be enabled to allow the CPU to refresh the PCH pages and prevent the double boot issue many users are seeing. It did not effect this review sample, but retail products might see a benefit from this.
The Monitor Tab displays Temperatures, Voltages and Fan speeds. Every setting can be changed from the default “Monitor” to “Ignore,” CPU Voltage can be set to ignore to POST past 1.53 VCORE. Q-Fan Control allows the user to set Fan Speed Profiles for any attached 4-pin PWM fans. 3 Pin fans will operate at full speed no matter what setting. At the very bottom of the page Anti-Surge Support if enabled prevents OVP and UVP (Over and Under Voltage Protection) for the system. If a PSU rail fails under spec or loads at 14v the system will shut down to hopefully prevent damage. Most PSUs also have this functionality built in but it is a nice double safe guard to have included.
The Boot settings page has features relating to POST and Boot Order. Num-Lock state should be disabled if you want the Number Lock on and are running a Windows OS. Windows enables this on boot anyway so switching it twice just returns it to the off state. Full Screen Logo, is a preference setting disabled is suggested. POST report can be increased or reduced to give the user time to read the POST screen (which is available when Full Screen Logo is disabled).
Option ROM messages can be set to Force BIOS or Keep Current. Force BIOS will make all 3rd Party ROM messages be displayed. If you want to control the Intel or Marvell RAID configuration while booting (Pressing Ctrl+I or Ctrl+M respectively) this should be left at Force BIOS. However to increase boot speed you can set this to keep current, using either IRST or MRU software to control the RAID arrays from within your Operating System.
Setup Mode allows you to change whether EZ or Advanced Mode is the first Screen you see when you enter the UEFI BIOS.
Boot Option Priorities allow you to change the ODD #1, HDD #1 and USB device boot order. To change the priority of individual ODD or HDDs however you must scroll down to the relevant BBS priorities settings. There is also a convenient Boot Override setting here that will take you straight from the BIOS to whatever device you click and attempt to boot. For the review Windows 7 and Windows FLP were installed to separate drives with separate MBRs. Boot override allows a quick one time boot change into the other operating system for testing. Normally this option is also accessible by pressing a function key during POST.
The tools page has the usual ASUS BIOS features, with EZ Flash and OC profiles, but now also includes SPD timings for your memory as previously mentioned. This is an excellent tool for referencing the memory’s XMP SPD settings when making manual DRAM timings adjustments. If the Marvell SATA 6Gbps controllers are enabled, ASUS Drive Xpert utility will also appear in this section. 3 Options appear in this section and are associated to the 2 dark blue SATA ports on the motherboard (which the UEFI BIOS kindly reminds you of). Normal Mode leaves the drives in AHCI mode. Super-speed creates a RAID0 (stripe) array, and EZ Backup selection creates a RAID1 (mirror) array. This is a UEFI point and click interface for the Marvell BIOS utility that can also be entered into traditionally by pressing ctrl+M at the Marvell BIOS splash screen during POST.
EZ Flash is a simple to use BIOS update program that can load a BIOS image from a USB storage device or Hard drive without the need for a Bootable USB stick or Optical disk. This brings all the convenience of Windows based BIOS flash, with the safety of a DOS based application.
OC Profiles are a great way to save settings for different performance levels. Setting a stock configuration profile with only adjustments that you would always want enabled or disabled. The average overclocker will most likely have 3 profiles saved at a minimum; Stock, 24/7 and Outrageous! Obviously profile names will vary as will there functions, the limit to naming however is 14 characters in length and no spaces.
The last thing of note is on the Exit menu itself. “Launch EFI shell from file system device” This allows the user to setup EFI booting. The manual offers the file shellx64.efi to boot the shell but does not explain partition and folder layout to get it to function properly. Creating an EFI boot partition and dropping shellx64.efi should function properly and allow one to run the Windows Command Shell Interface to setup EFI booting for Windows, Linux or even a Hackintosh.
Installing Windows from USB is extremely simple for 7 or Vista. Format a USB drive with diskpart, copy a Windows 7 installation DVD directly to it and choose the USB stick as your first boot device. Installation zips along at twice the speed of a standard optical disk installation. Unfortunately installing XP from USB is not as easy. For that matter most USB stick programs such as Gparted, HDDerase and Memtest also failed to run from USB on this motherboard. Windows was installed to a mechanical HDD, with 2 Force series corsair 40GB SSDs added later for certain software tests.
Windows 7 installs within 20 minutes and it comes time to install the drivers. At this point there was no optical drive installed in the review system yet, so drivers were downloaded from the ASUS website. TIP: For finding your drivers do not use the support-downloads option. Instead find your product manually and then click on the download link. Neither Opera Browser nor Internet Explorer works well on their support site. Firefox and Chrome users may or may not have issues.
As always chipset drivers were installed first, Storage drivers updated second and Intel Management Engine was installed last of the Intel drivers. IME, is necessary for much of the PcProbe II software to function properly. The Atheros Bluetooth software is necessary to enable the BT Transceiver located on board, minimal installation trials were not attempted.
Initial testing was also setup with a Microsoft Bluetooth Wireless Entertainment desktop suite, however entering the BIOS was tenuous and the switch was made to PS2 KB and USB mouse. System test specs.
- Intel Core i5 second generation 2500K
- ASUS P8P67 Deluxe Motherboard
- 4GB Kingston 2133 MHz DDR3 9-11-9-27-2T
- Hitachi 500GB 7200RPM Hard Drive
- 2x40GB Corsair Force Series SSD
- nVidia 580GTX at stock clocks
- Corsair TX750W
- Prolimatech Megahalem with HS Yateloon.
Initial boot impressions were very good, a snappy and responsive system that Intel finally added to their repertoire when they added an IMC on the previous generation Core series processors. Some of the best memory latencies since socket 939 (Via K8T800 with 2-2-2-5 500MHz RAM offered 35ns latency) are appearing on the Sandy Bridge platform and it really shows.
After installing all applications the time came to test out the DIP2 features. EPU as described in the beginning of the review, overrides the Intel spec power management options with a dedicated processor. Because of the IME, or in spite of it, the PCProbeII EPU software will run and function despite enabling or disabling the feature in the BIOS. Disabling EIST and C-states in the BIOS the EPU software still manages to down clock the CPU to 16x multi. Setting EPU to low power mode, forces the CPU to run at 16X all the time. Although this seriously cuts into the CPUs performance, it is an excellent solution for those looking for passively cooled or near silent systems and still want an excellent desktop experience. SSDs and a thermally controlled PSU fan will be great additions for those that are looking for near silent operation.
TPU features windows control of BCLK, CPU Multiplier (for K series chips) and most of the voltage controls available in the BIOS. The “Auto Tune” feature is also present here with 2 options, EASY and EXTREME. This is the third means of enabling the overclocking function of the DIP2 system. On board switch auto overclocks at boot, or under AI tweaker “OC TUNER” being the other two. In testing the difference between Auto and Extreme was very little. Auto tuning resulted in a comfortable 4.3GHz CPU speed. However, manually setting voltages in the BIOS and then running the EXTREME Auto tuner led to a 400MHz CPU speed gain over the EASY setting. Maxing out at just over 4.7GHz.
NOTE: Due to a weird BIOS glitch disabling EIST and CSTATES removes the ability to change multiplier in windows with the PCProbeII software. While many overclockers will not install this software at all, those wishing full control over a system without the need to restart may want it installed and losing the ability to change multiplier in windows will be paramount to this. Re-enabling the features did not return multi-clocking capability to windows.
The system review was performed at a 24/7 Manual overclock of 4.475 GHz. Initial testing was done at 1.3VCORE. Both IBT and Prime95 Blend testing was performed to ensure stability. Being a new architecture however it was not know that these tests no longer measure stability accurately. 1.3VCORE turned out not to be stable at those settings, as certain benchmarking applications would crash with stop errors indicating not enough core voltage. Increasing to 1.35 solved these problems and testing resumed.
Full control over the BIOS settings is available in windows as well, with Digi+ VRM allowing the users to change Load Line Calibration and CPU current Capability as well and VRM Phase and Duty control. Manual Turbo control is also available just as in the BIOS with the ability to change Turbo multipliers, duration and turbo voltage adjustments.
Fan control is also a feature of the PCProbeII software. Unlike the BIOS however a graph showing temperature to fan speed can be adjusted to set fan speed based on your predetermined conditions rather than the 3 automatic options in the BIOS. Without 4 pin PWM fans though these features were not functional on the CPU setting. The Chassis setting however does eem to control analog fans just fine. Unfortunately the Fan market has not caught up to the Motherboard/PC market as the best price/performance fans are still analog controlled. Analog Fans can still be run on the case but a PWM controlled fan must be used on the CPU for Fan controls to work.
The onboard Bluetooth device is a great feature and one that ASUS has implemented on some early versions of their motherboards like the Rampage III Extreme, in which a Bluetooth capable phone could be used to tune the system remotely. Armed with a Windows Mobile Smart Phone syncing the device with the motherboard was a simple operation. Unfortunately the Auto Turbo Remote Application would not function because of a reported EC sync error, yet everything else worked flawlessly. The Bluetooth software on Windows 7 allows you to send files to your phone, use your PC as a wireless headset and playback any music files on your phone through your PCs speakers.
While Bluetooth PC integration might not be new to everyone, for those new to the experience it is really an excellent feature. Local internet out and you absolutely must check your email? Sync to your phone and browse away. Laptop users would especially get a lot of use from this feature. Syncing between your PC and phone is a simple process, enable Bluetooth on your Phone, tell the PC to search for it. A screen will pop up with an authorization code that you can type in on your Phones keypad for security. After syncing is finished a page pops up just like the “Network and Sharing Center” page to make enabling features and performing operations easy as Windows.
Despite a couple of software glitches, the motherboard features are impressive overall and the ASUS included applications will offer a bevy of settings for the user to tweak, monitor and scrimp on their performance and power usage.
There are many other features available in the PCProbeII software. Creating your own custom boot screens, system monitoring monitoring, BIOS updates as well as control over what PCProbe features are accessible and color controls. Complete BIOS level control of your PC from within Windows is the key behind the software.
Reviews software was divided into 3 categories; System, Gaming and Benching. System testing includes motherboard performance focusing on CPU, memory, storage and networking devices. Gaming performance is measured by a number of game benchmarks freely downloadable from guru3d. Benching tests are the tests overclockers use to compete with one another on hwbot.org. Testing was performed at stock and 24/7 OC levels. Benching tests were also performed at “max clocks.” Max Clocks is performed with chill air and runs the ragged edge of stability with BSODs and system crashes being the norm. Stability is defined as “does it pass the benchmark.”
The only system wide tweak performed for most of the testing was to set power management to high performance mode. SSDs should always be set to “never off” for TRIM to function properly. Indexing and Recycle Bin were also disabled on the SSDs but left functional on other drives. Extreme clock testing under the hwbot section however was tweaked as needed for competitive results.
- PCMark Vantage
- Devil May Cry 4
- Call of Jaurez
- Resident Evil 5
- Lost Planet II
- Street Fighter IV
- Unigine Tropics
- Unigine Heaven
- Stalker: Call of Pripyat
- Superpi 1M and 32M
- wPrime 1.55
- 3dMark 2001
- 3dMark 2003
- 3dMark 2005
- 3dMark 2006
- 3dMark Vantage
- Aquamark 3
Games and system tests were benched at multiple settings which is covered under each individual software description.
AIDA64 Extreme Edition is a streamlined Windows diagnostic and benchmarking software for home users. AIDA64 Extreme Edition provides a wide range of features to assist in overclocking, hardware error diagnosis, stress testing, and sensor monitoring. It has unique capabilities to assess the performance of the processor, system memory, and disk drives. AIDA64 is compatible with all current 32-bit and 64-bit Microsoft Windows operating systems, including Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.
A full rundown of how each benchmark works can be found here.
AIDA64 Extreme Engineer edition is used for all review samples.
The AIDA64 results focus on CPU performance and memory capabilities. Both show a nice increase from overclocking.
PCMark Vantage is a PC benchmark suite designed for Windows Vista offering one-click simplicity for casual users and detailed, professional grade testing for industry, press and enthusiasts.
A PCMark score is a measure of your computer’s performance across a variety of common tasks such as viewing and editing photos, video, music and other media, gaming, communications, productivity and security.
From desktops and laptops to workstations and gaming rigs, by comparing your PCMark Vantage score with other similar systems you can find the hardware and software bottlenecks that stop you getting more from your PC.
PCMark Vantage results for all systems can be viewed at 3dMark.com although a free signup is required to query the database.
Overclocking the CPU and Memory give a nice performance increase across the board. The use of Striped SandForce Controller Solid State Drives were used in the test, all other settings are left at default.
Bootrace is a small freeware application that measures the time it takes to load windows to a usable configuration. Entirely dependent on OS tweaking, memory speed and latency and Storage device access time and speed, the tool is useful and light enough to run at every boot.
The SPECgpcSM project group’s SPECviewperf 11 — released in late June 2010 — is totally new graphics performance evaluation software. Among the major changes are a new GUI, fully updated viewsets traced from newer versions of applications, larger models, and advanced OpenGL functionality such as shading and vertex buffer objects (VBOs).
Although SPV11 is an evaluation of 3D workstation performance, it really shines on showing how well a CPU/Memory system can enhance a powerful 3D device like a 580GTX. Overclocking the CPU and memory should show dramatic improvements on bottle necked systems. All testing was done at default settings which includes 1920×1080 resolution.
Overclocking definitely helps on the Sandy Bridge Architecture, although not by a large margin, it supplies even more CPU power and performance to the 580GTX. While this shows that a Sandy Bridge based architecture is not inherently necessary for a 580GTX to handle 3D workstation graphics, every little bit helps.
This free application is available from Microsoft for testing network performance. It relies on having 2 computers one in send and one in receive mode. Numerous variable are able to be introduced into the software including multithreading, multiple receivers, ipv4 and ipv6, and synchronous vs. asynchronous transmission.
For testing the Intel vs. the Realtek NIC a single threaded asynchronous test was used with a Realtek 8111D NIC on a home server running on an unlocked Sempron 140 AMD CPU.
While the Intel NIC does not manage to grab the greatest throughput of the two the difference was very minimal on the receiving tests. The CPU usage was less than half what the Realtek NIC need for the same tests. The difference might not SEEM great when compared to each other despite more than halving resource usage, but for greater clarity, the Realtek 8111D NIC on the Sempron 140 was consistently using 30% CPU usage. The average cycles/byte listing matches the CPU usage stats exactly. Overall the Realtek NIC’s lack of performance is attributed partly to the nearly 20% increase in number of packets sent back to the transmitting NIC.
On the TCP transmitting tests the Realtek NIC consistently scored 10% greater throughput. CPU usage was lower on both NICs when functioning as the transmission device. Scoring on Average a 3% usage with the Realtek NIC and a mean 1.25% for the Intel. In this test however the Intel NIC had consistently higher Packets Received (vs. sent in the receiving test), than the Realtek, this does not offer an explanation for the lower throughput however as on the receiving tests the Realtek to Realtek performance had a higher throughput and more parity packets sent as well.
Unfortunately due to constraints, both financial and temporal, Intel NIC to Intel NIC comparisons were not able to be tested. Future reviews may include this as a comparison as well. Unfortunately other network testing proved unreliable. SiSoft Sandra could not differentiate between the Intel and Realtek NICs and scored both at 100Mbps speeds.
Due to the wide number of games tested only charts will be used for most of the test results. The exception is the Stalker: Call of Pripyat benchmarks which includes an excellent graph that also displays minimum frame rates.
Overall the test results were very much different than the previous generation core processors. In the Rampage III Formula review all of the same games were tested in a configuration that should have pushed the CPU/MEM to the extreme with a 4890 to handle the 3D duties. In every test in that review the performance was minimal or even slightly lower than stock performance (by a fraction of an FPS). The Core i5 2500K however improves gaming performance across the board when paired up with a 580GTX however even on highly GPU focused tests.
Resolution settings are tested at default (usually very low) and 1920×1200 resolution. MSAA is tested at the maximum the application offers, 4 or 8X. CSAA, xQ settings are not used but other features maybe enabled depending on the software. Motion Blur, Ambient Occlusion etc.
Stalker Call of Pripyat
When overclocked the minimum frame rate drops almost across the board in all testing when compared to the stock performance while the average and maximum frame rates increase. The results are also a little erratic with regards to the minimum rating as well consistently one of the 3 tests will result in one of the tests scoring very well in minimum rates, but whether it is day, night or rain varies.
Devil May Cry 4
Tested at default settings and again with all settings maxed and resolution increased to maximum which was 1920×1080.
Call of Juarez
Typically an ATI favorite game. The 580GTX smashes through it however with more than double a playable frame rate at default settings. 4X MSAA was max setting for enhanced testing mode.
Resident Evil 5
Scores ‘Smokin’ ranks across the board despite any settings. Max settings were 8x MSAA and Motion blur enabled.
Lost Planet 2
Tested across all 3 DirectX versions and with and without MSAA 4x. It ranks As until the Direct 11 test were it manages to dip down into a ‘B’ ranking when paired with a stock CPU.
Street Fighter 4
Tested at default settings, with the exception of setting windowed mode and variable frame rate. It was tested again at 1920×1200 resolution with and without MSAA 8X. Rank ‘A’ was never deviated from.
Unigine Tropics Demo
Tested in all 4 modes both stock and OCed. 1920×1200 resolution was used with all options enabled. Across the board Unigine tropics, Heaven and Crysis all displayed a similar Graphics issue on the the 580GTX. The screen would flicker a bit starting out on the Tropics and Heaven benchmarks and periodically throughout the Crysis testing. Hopefully this issue will be fixed with a driver update.
The ultimate game benchmark over the last few years, the Sandy Bridge CPU paired up with a 580GTX powers through this game at high resolutions. Completely maxing out the game still results in a playable frame averaging about 30FPS.
While not a performance benchmark, CPUZ is all about posting the highest CPU speed possible, or when reference clocking the highest BUS speed with CPUZ verification. Sandy Bridge will not be winning any awards in this benchmark due to multiplier walls and BCLK limitations. 51X seems to be a pretty common multi wall for 2500Ks on the P8P67 platform with notable exceptions being the Maximus IV Extreme and the MicroATX ASUS board. As stock and 24/7 OCs are not very interesting only the Extreme OC limit is posted for CPUZ section.
Hexus PiFast v4.1
PiFast is a 2D benchmark that focuses entirely on CPU single threaded performance. It functions similar to Superpi with a default BAT file to run for competition testing. Pi is calculated out to 10 million places in 6 loops and checked for errors before displaying your final score. CPU overclocking really shines in this benchmark.
SuperPi is a computer program that calculates a specific number of digits of Pi using FFT arithmetic and Borwein’s quartically-convergent algorithm; it is a port to Windows of the program used by Yasumasa Kanada in 1995 to compute 232 decimal digits of pi.It is commonly used by overclockers to test the stability and speed of an overclocked system; the fastest overclocked Core 2 Duo processors can get a million digits in under ten seconds.
There are two test sizes run by superpi for HWbot Competition 1M and 32M. Both tests are tweakable although 1M is generally considered less so. 32M takes roughly 60 times longer than 1M to run.
Normally wPrime is one of the hardest benchmarks to run for a CPU. It is fully threaded and really drives up the heat a CPU produces. Oddly however on Sandy Bridge it is not the most difficult test to run. Thanks in part to the Ring Bus topology, IBT, Prime95 and wPrime are in fact fairly easy to produce stable numbers at fairly low VCORE. Superpi, 3D11 and AIDA64 produces stop errors at the same voltages.
Although efficiency is again very high on Sandy Bridge the lack of Hyper-Threading Technology on the 2500K means it will not be a contender for global spots in wPrime. 2600Ks will however produce some excellent results.
PCMark®05 is everything you need to reliably and easily measure the performance of your PC and determine its strengths and weaknesses. With PCMark05, you will be able to select the optimal upgrades for your existing PC, or choose the right new PC that fits your specific needs. This easy-to-use product gives you the same tools and knowledge that virtually every professional tester in the industry uses.
CPU and memory performance can really shine here but the way to score in the top percentages is with SSD or iRAM RAID0 arrays and run only Windows Vista or 7. Still the test is a great measure of overall system performance.
The 3dMark tests vary in performance and requirements, from DX8 to DX11 and single to multithreaded. The earlier versions of 3dMark are so CPU bottlenecked with modern video cards that only very high speed CPUs can push the tests to near respectable levels at hwbot. The newer tests are less CPU dependent for the GPU tests, however CPU tests have been added that effect the score as well. Vantage is the closest one can come to a pure GPU test in the 3dMark environment.
Sandy Bridge efficiency shows its power in the early tests, scoring very well against core2duo and 980X, not enough to take the world records however due to clock limitations.
Another 3D test that is entirely 2D driven due to old DirectX versions and low resolution. The Sandy Bridge CPU again rears the Chipzilla power and smashes old standards. Only the 980X need not fear Sandy Bridge here, as the records are pretty solidly secured with 6 cores and 6.5GHz CPU action (For now at least).
Heaven Benchmark is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on advanced Unigine™ engine from Unigine Corp. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. Interactive mode provides emerging experience of exploring the intricate world of steampunk.
Original version was released at the moment of Microsoft Windows 7 launch in October, 2009.
CPU overclocking does help the tests in a a VERY small way, the Extreme preset has a slightly larger effect. In both cases though this benchmark is all about GPU performance and speed.
The P8P67 Deluxe has an amazing array of features and great components integrated. The software ASUS has added makes overclocking simpler than ever with virtually no input from the user required. They have opted to use dedicated ICs across the board from TPU and EPU to Intel Ethernet to boost performance of the CPU and memory. Sandy Bridge’s increase in efficiency, combined with astonishing overclocks on air, with a multiplier unlocked CPU, will have great benefits for the desktop user and gaming enthusiast. Unfortunately, thanks to Intel not supplying individual multipliers to each BUS, overclocking of non K series chips will be limited to at most 8%, more commonly 3-4%.
We would hope that manufacturers will put pressure on Intel to make changes available through EFI/BIOS updates, but do not have high expectations for it. P67 is being released again as we speak due to a storage controller issue.
Overall the P8P67 Deluxe is another feature rich motherboard from the MegaGiant ASUS. Unfortunately there are still some issues and OCing seems to be further limited on this board than other cheaper boards. What one gives up in total overclockability however, on adds a higher overall average because even joe quadcore will be pushing these chips well past design standards with just the flip of a switch.
It is interesting that ASUS chose to use the Intel NIC on a non-ROG motherboard, as it is a feature which gamers demanded. It is a nice addition however and the lowered CPU overhead combined with further reduced overhead of the DIP2, expectations are it will really help bring the board to the forefront on performance per clock basis for online gaming.
Rating this board is hard to do, as the features and over all capabilities are very impressive. The 3.5” Front bay USB 3.0 ports are a great feature, no on else but ASUSTek companies appears to be using it at this point. The 19 pin header is an Intel design Spec but what the standard will be is anyone’s guess at this point. The Bluetooth is also an excellent addition, but one that can be added with a USB dongle for $5 in windows 7. Intel NIC also is a clamored for feature that uses much less overhead than the Realtek NIC that is the norm for modern boards, but sacrifices throughput to do so.
The point and click BIOS is quirky and does not respond well to user input, (Disabling EPU for example should disable EPU not just remove BIOS control of it) but as it is cutting edge in development on should expect some growing pains. Excellent overclocking features and utilities including PLL override, but less results are showing it handling even lower multipliers than other boards in its price range.
At this point the Deluxe board receives a Techreaction Silver award. Future BIOS updates may fix the issues at hand, easily upgrading this to a Gold award, however with 2 updates already the instability still persists.
Thanks to the guys at ASUS for their help and patience in this review.